REBEL Labour councillor Kevin Bennett has been indefinitely suspended from the ruling Labour Group on Warrington Borough Council.
The Fairfield and Howley councillor (pictured, right and above with supporters at the town hall) is said to have breached group confidentiality and discipline, including voting against the council’s budget last month in defiance of a three line whip.
The group is said to have voted overwhelmingly for Cllr Bennett’s indefinite suspension.
Council leader Terry O’Neill (below, left) said: “Our strength lies in unity and taking collective responsibility for the decisions of our administration, key to which is the setting of the council budget.
“The group has followed due process in arriving at this decision, which has been made in light of the full facts concerning the breaches of Labour Party rules. Cllr Bennett now has a right of appeal as per normal procedures.”
Cllr O’Neill added: “In our budget, we have delivered the best possible outcome for Warrington in dealing with the Government’s savage funding cuts. That is what protects vulnerable people in our town, not abdicating the responsibility placed in us by the electorate.
” It has been disappointing in recent weeks to read the misinformation from Cllr Bennett about the budget, the possible alternatives and this situation. The Labour Group has acted decisively in moving to bring this matter to a close.”
Cllr Bennett said he is to appeal against the group’s decision.
He said “I was extremely concerned by the contents of the budget as I believed that it was disproportionately weighted towards more prosperous areas of the town.
“The ward I represent is amongst the most deprived in Warrington and has, for a number of years, suffered from a lack of investment and neglect by the previous council administration.
“I was keen to ensure that any budget which was put forward by this Labour Group did not repeat the mistakes made by the two parties who I worked hard to unseat’.
“Since 2010 I have been subject to a number of unpleasant approaches and remarks by members of this Labour Group which have sought to damage my reputation and question credibility.
“I am extremely proud to represent the people of Fairfield and Howley as a Labour/Co-Operative Party councillor and was humbled to secure my re-election last May.
“My fellow ward councillors have made it clear that they have no desire to work with me within the ward and they have made it obvious that they have no wish to be associated with me.
“I have had a number of distasteful accusations levelled at me, including a phone call from a fellow Labour councillor who told me: “You are finished in the Labour Group.”
“Last year, I received a number of emails which questioned my integrity and descended to unnecessary and unwarranted insults. I reported these matters to the Whips, but no action was taken and I have yet to receive an apology”.
Cllr Bennett’s suspension brings the number of Labour councillors currently suspended from the group to three.
Cllr Hitesh Patel, a former member of the council’s executive board and Culcheth’s Cllr Chris Vobe were suspended on unrelated issues.
It is understood their cases are being investigated by the regional Labour Party.